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Hills Musical Theatre Company: Seussical - Review by Daniel Conway

Community theatre is the best. It is the place where most performers get to experiment and fall in love with the craft of acting. It is where talented young people get to step on the stage and start to realize their potential. It is in this spirit that Seussical the musical holds a special place in my heart because it is the very place I fell in love with theatre. What makes this show charming is it is big, it is colorful, and it has a beautiful message. Hills Musical Theatre Company has done a fantastic job of translating what makes Seussical so wonderful and adding their own brand of charm and enjoyment to it.

 




The first thing you will notice when you see Seussical the musical by Hills Musical Theatre Company is a breathtaking set by director Sally Brown. Brown's vision is immediately clear, taking inspiration from the iconic styling of Dr. Seuss and focusing on big, bright colors that are fantastical and imaginative. I can only guess how many man-hours it took to create such a beautiful set, which was used expertly by Brown to create levels, show movement, and ensure that every performer could be seen and celebrated. Brown is also responsible for the fantastic and whimsical costumes that help to create this world she is inviting us into. Every single character has their own personality, reflected in their costume choices, none more so than the super-impressive Cat in the Hat. The suit that the meddlesome narrator of the story is wearing is truly a sight to behold. Brown and her team made some very smart choices for maximum visual impact. Although it would behoove me not to mention the choice of padding for Horton the Elephant, which I am not sure was as successful as the other fantastic costumes on stage. This, however, is not a negative overall of Brown's work, which was fantastic, but a style choice that I question.

 

The other half of the dynamic duo Browns that should be applauded for this production is Susan Brown, the musical director. This show is not easy; it is full of complicated melodies and harmonies, as well as working with a large ensemble of young people, which presents its own challenges. With this in mind, the sound that Brown was able to produce from not only her orchestra but from her cast was quite polished. The only critique I could possibly have is some of the lower male harmonies needing strengthening; but as anyone involved in community theatre will tell you, finding male singers can sometimes be as rare as hen's teeth. In that same vein, the work of choreographer Gai Reckless should be celebrated. It is not easy to make that many people with that varying degree of dance experience look as good or as cohesive as Reckless was able to. The entire production team should be proud of the work that they have done, particularly with how inclusive this show was. It is not often that you see people on stage who have physical disabilities being included in a respectful way. The way that Brown and Reckless chose to highlight and feature ensemble members who are wheelchair users brought me so much joy as an audience member and as a person who works with young people.

 




This is a huge show featuring a cavalcade of colorful characters cavorting around the stage. It would be a herculean effort to include every single person who shone on the stage in this review, so I would like to make this clear right off the bat: every single person in the ensemble and who had the smaller featured roles should be nothing but proud of the work that they did. However, there are a few specific cast members whose work I feel should be spoken about specifically. Starting with Ruben Hann as Horton the elephant. Horton is a difficult character to play in that if you are not adding levels and expression, his earnestness can become quite grating; this is not the case with Hann’s performance. Hann is incredibly likable in the role and has a charming youthful energy that is perfect for Horton. Speaking of youthful energy, Lawson Booth as the big thinker JoJo does an incredible job. I could not imagine being as young as Booth and being able to take on such a large role so confidently. Booth is a fantastic young actor who managed to hold his own, particularly when singing with the more experienced adults.

 




Renee Bachara is clearly having the time of her life playing Cat in the Hat. It is incredibly hard to act in a giant cat suit because everything you must do is blown up and exaggerated to convey emotion. Bachara is portraying every emotion possible and doing the most onstage, much to the delight of the audience. I could watch her taunt Horton the elephant, throwing various objects at his head, for hours on end; she is truly hilarious. Tessa Marsden as Gertrude McFuzz is truly captivating. Marsden has a beautiful voice, and her rendition of Gertrude is probably one of my favorites that I've seen. Other standout performances include the wonderfully cartoonish Leanne Mordini and Jason Mok playing Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, JoJo’s parents, the cheeky Whickershams played by George De Sacadura, Dominic Koncurat, and James De Sacadura, the impressive Bird Girl Chorus of Eve Dredge, Zoe Hogan, and Angela Mordini, and the sassy Sour Kangaroo played by Jenelle Magtibay and Sierra Watson as her Joey. Each of these performers helped to set the scene and flesh out this joyful story.

 


Seussical is a story about being an individual and the power of being different. This is a message that is perfect for community theatre, a space for everyone to come together and bring joy and color into a space and into each other’s lives. I recommend this show to anyone who happens upon a pendulous pachyderm on an egg, nest, and tree.



Photography Credits: Grant Leslie Photography

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